MSU Should Mandate Consent Education for Incoming Freshmen

If there’s one statement guaranteed to set off a flurry of red-faced spluttering and sweaty hand-waving, it’s got to be “rather than teaching women to avoid rape, we should teach men not to commit it.” While alcohol, parties and hookup culture can be dangerous, it isn’t because young women say yes to sex, it’s because young men refuse to accept a “no.” It’s been repeated so many times that it’s lost much of its power to shock, but the fact that one in five women in college will be sexually assaulted is one of the most massive moral failures in the modern United States.

While groups like the VOICE Center and Students Against Sexual Assault do amazing work raising awareness and educating the student body to prevent sexual violence, their reach needs to be extended in order to address this enormous ongoing crisis. It’s essential that Montana State both educates its incoming freshmen on consent and healthy relationships and helps to create a culture in which men will stand up to their own friends by ensuring that all incoming students take a consent education class.

The most common response to the assertion that consent education is necessary usually consists of some pearl-clutching statement like “men know that rape is wrong and frankly, it’s insulting and sexist to suggest that they don’t.” While this is true, it’s misleading; almost all men know that rape is wrong, they just seem unclear about what it is or fail to see certain forms of sexual coercion as serious crime. In a recent study, a full 46 percent of men reported having physically or verbally coerced a partner into sex, with many failing to even see their actions as wrong.

The study found that the best predictor of sexual aggression was men’s acceptance of myths about rape like “men rape because their desire for sex is overpowering” and “if there was no weapon or threat of violence, it wasn’t really rape.” A mandatory consent education class would help to correct the often-warped views of incoming freshmen men and create a culture in which men will stand up to each other about sexual violence rather than shrinking back and failing to take a stand.